Gritty Paraguay hold Argentina

Football Copa America: Barrios nets late equaliser for La Albirroja; Rodriguez goal powers Uruguay

Gritty Paraguay hold Argentina

 Paraguay snatched a last-gasp 2-2 Copa America draw with favourites Argentina here on Saturday to stun Lionel Messi and his star-studded team-mates.

A 90th-minute equaliser from Montpellier striker Lucas Barrios completed a dramatic turnaround for the Paraguayans, who had trailed 2-0 at half-time after Argentina goals from Sergio Aguero and Messi.

Argentina looked in control of the Group B game for long periods but were forced onto the back foot in the second half when Paraguay threw caution to the wind in the hunt for goals.

Paraguay were given a lifeline on 60 minutes when Eintracht Frankfurt striker Nelson Valdez lashed in a long-range effort to cut Argentina's lead to 2-1.

Argentina goalkeeper Sergio Romero pulled off a series of saves to keep Paraguay at bay and it looked as if the Group B underdogs would be denied.

But with the final whistle looming, a long free-kick from Nestor Ortigoza was headed by Paulo Da Silva into the path of Barrios, who swept home a low shot to leave Argentina in shock.

Earlier, Argentina looked to be cruising after taking a 2-0 lead lead as they launched their quest for a first major title in 22 years.

Messi scored a 36th-minute penalty to give his team a two-goal cushion, moments after forcing the Paraguay mistake which led to Aguero's opener.

Despite winning every honour in the game at club level, Messi has yet to taste success in a major international tournament in the famous blue and white shirt of his homeland.

Messi is determined to end that jinx in Chile, repeatedly stating that one of the most gifted generations of players Argentina has ever produced must crown their talent with a title.

The shock draw on Saturday will have raised Argentine fears about another tournament disappointment.

“It is a sin,” to give away an equaliser in the final minute, Argentina coach Gerardo Martino said afterwards, lambasting his team's "neglect."

"We lost control and the other team had four or five chances to get a draw," Martino told a news conference.

"We had many chances to win," he added, saying that the team in the second half were "totally different from the side that played in the first half." "I do not think we need to change anything. What we have to look back at the two games we played in the 90 minutes today."

Paraguay goal hero Barrios was jubilant after his team's heroics.
"This group is so tough that getting a draw in the last minute against Argentina is like a victory," said Barrios, who plays for Montpellier in France.

Paraguay's other goalscorer, Valdez, paid tribute to the spirit shown by his team-mates.
"Individually we are less than Argentina, but as a team we are better than them," he said. "We needed a slap in the face at half-time."

Argentina, runners-up in the World Cup final last year, are aiming to win their first major tournament since victory in the 1993 Copa America.

They now face a crucial second match on Tuesday against holders Uruguay, who struggled to impress in a lacklustre 1-0 win over Caribbean minnows Jamaica earlier Saturday.

Uruguay win

Uruguay's Cristian Rodriguez scored a soft goal in the holders' laboured 1-0 win over outsiders Jamaica when they opened their defence of their Copa America title on Saturday.

Rodriguez steered the ball with the inside of his left foot into the bottom corner of Duwayne Kerr's net in the 52nd minute after fellow midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro's free kick on the left was headed back into the middle by right back Alvaro Pereira. Uruguay missed the incisive play of suspended striker Luis Suarez, who inspired them to their title triumph in Argentina four years ago, and substitute Cristhian Stuani miskicked a good chance to score a second goal two minutes from time.

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